Cognitive behavioural therapy used to overcome fear of dentist

Estimates from the most recent Adult Dental Health Survey in the UK suggest around one in 10 British people suffer from dental phobia, the Australian Dental Association puts the national figure slightly higher at around 16% of the population.

But a new UK study has published results suggesting cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help those people with a dental phobia overcome their fear. It has proven so successful that many people no longer require sedation in order to undertake a long-dreaded visit to their dentist.

People with dental phobias can see a marked impact on their overall health when left untreated, typically avoidant of the dentist to the extreme that they end up experiencing more dental pain, poor oral health and an increased effect on their quality of life.

CBT has been shown to help with a range of psychological problems, and is typically used to treat depression and anxiety-related disorders. In the cited study, published in the British Dental Journal, 130 patients were observed. After attending psychologist-led CBT treatment, the outcomes of their sessions were recorded.

Patients were surveyed for their levels of dental anxiety, general anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol use and oral health-related quality of life. Around 75 per cent scored 19 or higher on the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS), which indicates dental phobia. The remainder all scored high on one or more items of the MDAS, suggesting a specific fear to do with some aspect of dentistry—primarily injections and drilling. Of all patients, 79 per cent went on to have post-treatment dental work without the need for sedation, with the average number of CBT appointments required around five.

Taken from Bite Magazine 3rd December, 2015


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